Kinect may have been a glimpse into a Minority Report style futuristic world of gaming, but the reality rarely lived up to the marketing.
As impressive as it was to drive supercars in Forza using just your hands, or score a penalty by swinging a leg, the real skill was coercing the technology to work well enough in our dimly lit small sitting rooms. Xbox One Kinect promised to fix all this with its new High Definition camera and super sensitive microphone – but came up against opposition from gamers, who found the idea of an always-on camera in their living rooms a little unsettling.
Packing the controller in with the console may not have been a popular choice – but it showed how much Microsoft still believed in Kinect gaming. A default Kinect could mean only one thing: a pipeline of impressive games to convince gamers how good the hands-free experience could be.
READ MORE: Microsoft Xbox One review
But then last month Microsoft pulled the plug, offering the Xbox One without Kinect for a considerable price cut. Good news for game fans maybe, but it left Kinect fans high and dry. With Kinect only rating a cursory mention at the Xbox E3 press conference, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was game over for the sensor.
In truth, some of the most exciting and unusual Xbox games on display at E3 were on Kinect – and they might just change your mind about the camera controller.
Dance Central Spotlight
Following up arguably the best proper Xbox 360 Kinect game, Spotlight homes in on your dancing skill with all the advanced sensors that the Xbox One Kinect can bring to bear on your flailing form.
A more streamlined experience also gets you dancing quicker – and at a lower price point, too. The initial download comes with 10 songs that can be augmented with your favourite tracks to create a custom “library of dance”. Each song now has eight routines that offer “Strength” and “Cardio” workouts (as well as challenging your co-ordination).
The new Kinect tracks more joints, and works in more confined spaces, too. This means there should be less time fiddling with the camera and more time improving those signature dance moves ready for Friday night.Dance Central Spotlight will be released this September.
Shape Up is a new take on fitness from Ubisoft. Gone are the Zen gardens and androgynous trainers; in their place are extreme challenges with retro arcade visuals. You may be doing press-ups in front of your Xbox One, but on the screen you're lifting tanks, whales and ten tonne safes.
There’s a competitive edge to the game as well. Play against a mate and you’ll soon be sweating to beat their score. Doing well is a combination of fitness and skill as you have to pay attention to on-screen instructions to max out your performance. It’s what a fitness game would be like if you combined Dance Dance Revolution, Tekken, 90’s arcade shooters and a slightly vindictive gym trainer.
This is an Xbox One only game that will make use of both the processing power of the Xbox One and greater accuracy of new Kinect – apparently not possible on 360 Kinect.Shape Up will be available on Xbox One in November.
Fru is a revolutionary game; one of the first games to seamlessly combine Kinect and Controller play.
It uses the Xbox One Kinect camera to reveal different layers of a platform based world. Each player uses a gamepad to move a small character around the world; to get to the exit, you need to position your body in front of different platforms while moving your character with the controller.
It’s hard to explain but instinctive to play. With two players currently – and possibly more to be added, with Xbox One supporting up to 8 controllers, Fru is physical and frantic; perhaps the perfect post-pub activity. Don’t be fooled though, this is a tough game to complete. The combination of controlled bodily movement, co-operation and co-ordination with the other player and the standard platforming running and jumping will challenge even the most proficient of gamers.
It’s not only good to see a core game for Kinect on Xbox One but also a novel combination of controller and camera controls. It’s the best of both worlds; unusual physical interactions with Kinect combined with the precise controls from the sticks and buttons.
Fantasia Music Evolved
Fantasia may conjure up visions of Mickey Mouse in a wizard hat – but this is no mere kid's game, despite the Disney licence. It's themed around Walt Disney’s vision for the Fantasia music to combine music and visuals; lurking beneath its saccharine exterior is a hard core music action game from the team that brought us Guitar Hero, Dance Central and Rock Band.
Here players use the Xbox One Kinect controller to not only conduct the music but also pull off pitch bending, air-guitar solos and all manner of high tech audio trickery. As with any music game, it’s the songs that matter most – and Fantasia has things covered in that department. From Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” to the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” this isn’t just for the kids. Combine all this with a fantastical world to explore and Fantasia has a lot to offer Kinect owners – on both Xbox One and Xbox 360.
READ MORE: E3 2014 — all of the biggest news
Along with the Kinect-focused games above, the controller is supported in titles like Project Spark and Just Dance 2015. Just because Microsoft's been slow to sing the Kinect's praises this year, doesn't mean that it's forgotten its revolutionary sensor; there are still plenty of gaming reasons to own this revolutionary camera controller.
Andy Robertson is a freelance gaming expert for the BBC and runs Family Gamer TV